Is there a definite pattern in the stages of growth of all bloggers in their online journey? Something like Rostow’s five stages of growth in Economics? We all know that whether it is the growth of an organism or a process like the building up of a traditional business, there is a definite sequence or pattern in the development that takes it through the various phases of growth.
It is said that from the very moment you make the decision to start your own business, you’re in the “business lifecycle”. Do you remember the day when you decided to take the plunge headlong into the unchartered territory called Internet marketing?
From that fateful day when you decided to enter the blogging world, you journey through a series of steps that take you through distinct phases with a unique set of challenges to deal with at each stage. From an idea to seeing it getting started, from the preparatory phase to the take-off stage and finally to the stage of maturity, each phase presents itself with distinctive obstacles and solutions.
Blogging is all Ups and Downs
The Internet marketing world is in a state of flux always. It’s a constantly shifting landscape and the growth graph of a blogger in each stage is punctuated by several crests and troughs. There’s no Internet marketer worth the name whose journey has been smooth and a constant rise.
Here, only the most flexible trumps. You adapt to situations as you move along. No other activity puts your patience to the test as much as blogging does.
Internet marketing is marked by a high failure rate and most start-ups fold up within the first four months itself. The failure could be because of the marketer’s own inadequacies. But in most of the cases, it’s because of self-destruction. It is mostly because of the individual’s inability to be flexible or because of his getting distracted on the way by shiny objects. Unpredictable as our life is, it could be because life happened on the way. Or it is because of the impatience to see the results and an inability to execute the strategies that are suited to each stage of his journey. Mostly, it’s because of putting the cart before the horse.
In the online business world, each individual’s journey is unique and a strategy that works perfectly for you might not work for someone else’s business.
Understanding which stage of the journey you are in might help you cope with the potential challenges you are likely to encounter. It will make you better prepared to meet the obstacles and also to help you anticipate the challenges you will be meeting in the next stage of the transition.
Certain phases might be longer than the other, and to make sense of the transformation at each stage, an acknowledgment of the existence of the phases of growth and an awareness of what stage you’re currently positioned is helpful.
Let’s see in which stage of the growth you are at the moment.
Stage 1: Germination of the Business Idea
This stage is characterised by heavy browsing for information on the internet on “how to make money online” or “how to start a blog” search terms. The idea to start an online business has already been planted in your brain and to make sense of what it was all about, you scout for authority websites and personalities in Internet marketing on the web. You’ve fallen in love with the whole concept of making money through a blog and start imagining that you have already found your calling. You start looking for people in your immediate circle of friends on Facebook and other social media channels to get an idea from a real person who has already been there. Lucky if you find one. But even if you don’t, you’re all determined to find out more.
Stage 2: Assessment of the Cost and Work Involved
You may like to assess the viability of the start-up before you take the plunge by taking into consideration the cost and the amount of work that need to be invested. If you’re already with a 9-5 office job, this is important because you have to be realistic about how much you can invest in your start-up and if that would be sub-optimal for success. You need to have your finances covered because you’re not likely to quit your job immediately to venture into the dark and mysterious world of online business. This is when you’ll seek for the most practical advice and opinions on the potential of your business from your trusted people – family, friends or colleagues. A lot of introspection and soul-searching take place at this stage.
Stage 3: The Stage of Soul-Searching
You begin to assess your own strengths and weaknesses and take a step back to look at yourself to see if you have it in you to take actions for the success of your business. What is that makes you think it could be your start-up business? Are you a good writer? Can you communicate your ideas well in written words? Can you be a good salesman? You have been reading various popular blogs and following successful online marketers. Do you have anything to fall back on in the event of your not achieving success? A plan B? One fact remains – no matter how much soul-searching you do, you will never to able to know what it is like to be inside by just sitting on the fence. You are aware of this too. You have seen that there are many ways to make money online. So, of those activities, which one will suit you best? This stage can take a long time to get over. Some people get stuck at this stage forever.
Stage 4: The Start-up – Looking for Avenues to Learn Internet Marketing
By now, you are convinced that you’ll be starting your own online business. You feel this is a window of opportunity for you and you’re all set to embark on your journey. The idea consumes you and you start gathering all kinds of information available on the internet – the courses available, personal coaching, video lessons, and even books. It is generally believed that this is the most crucial phase and the riskiest. The enthusiasm can all come for a naught if, in your eagerness to start, you fail to do a proper research and get yourself enrolled for a third-grade Internet marketing course. Mistakes made at this stage can have a long-term impact or in the worst-case scenario, you might be compelled to abandon your nascent online business dream. But if suppose, you’re lucky and you join a legit online learning platform on the recommendation of a trusted friend, things can be better. Choosing the best platform for newbies is never easy. There are tons of information and choices out there and things can get very noisy.
Stage 5: Learning Phase
This is the stage where you’re learning to set up your own blog. The focus here is primarily learning everything about making money online and how to monetise a website. This stage is primarily focused on content building and setting up your blog (in all probability a WordPress blog) and learning the various website elements. Most basic blog set up tasks, including keyword research and SEO are learned at this stage. This is the longest phase of the whole journey because there are just too many things to learn. This is also the most exciting phase as well. Customising themes, learning to create valuable content, embedding videos, account set-ups for different social media channels, creating content, seeing your posts getting indexed (and maybe ranked), and trying out various plugins all happen here. You learn to place Google ads and possibly even start earning small amounts from there. This is also the stage where most people fail because instead of learning continuously, they start thinking that things are easy and start focussing on monetisation too much.
Stage 6: Building From the Ground Up
Here, you already have a blog running live. You have created a good volume of content and the learning still continues. This the stage you’re most vulnerable to getting distracted from your main path. By now, you understand how to monetise a blog and even start enrolling in various courses where you feel your knowledge is lacking. For most people, the initial excitement tapers off and this is the phase of some serious introspection. Here the traffic does not pick up despite doing very much the same things you’re expected of. Many things stagnate. The frustration peaks here, and one is most vulnerable to what we call the ‘shiny object syndrome’. Not seeing the results in terms of revenue generation, people tend to follow other make-money-online strategies and in the process lose focus. The energy gets diverted from the main business blog and he starts following other schemes when he should have been concentrating on his blog. Two things can happen here. He can either get completely lost or come back to his senses again and start working on his business site.
By now, the content creation is faster, the writing improves, the indexing happens fast, and many of your posts start ranking for good keywords. You are now more aware of how each strategy works and how they could be incorporated as part of your overall strategy. You are more visible now and you start developing your personal brand. The traffic is still not significant and it plateaus off even. This is the pre-takeoff phase and if you are able to weather the storm till this stage, the vision gets clearer and you can brace yourself for the upsurge in the traffic that can happen anytime soon.
Stage 7: Networking and Application of Different Strategies
By now, things have more or less settled down. This is the stage of making connections and associations with other businesses and prospects. Your blog is now getting filled up with a good body of work. You’re now feeding the search engines with fresh content more frequently. You’re slowly building up your own authority and people start noticing you. By now, you have many subscribers and your email list is growing. Till now, if you have not been committing yourself to carry out the social media strategies. This is the stage where your social media marketing takes shape. Facebook ads, YouTube videos, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr happens on a bigger scale. Your focus on social media reaps good dividends and you see your social referral traffic surge. You are now more confident of yourself. You are able to understand the pros and cons of each strategy properly. You’re ready for the final take-off now.
Stage 8: Traffic Growth – The Stage of Take-off
You have an established blog and there’s a good volume of quality work. There are engagements on your posts and by now, you already have a good fan following. All your posts are indexed and there’s a steady growth of blog traffic. You finally have a flow of income from the affiliate sales and ads on your blog. The stage is marked a rapid increase in daily visitors and decreased bounce rates. You are able to produce a continuous flow of quality content, and there are good backlinks too. You’re generating a consistent income and there are many new customers daily. The cash inflow that includes recurring revenues is able to cover your ongoing expenses. You’re able to create multiple income streams from the same blog. This is when most people quit their 9-5 jobs to dedicate full time on their blogs. Despite the increasing levels of income, you realise that you still have to work hard. In fact, you need to work harder than before to maintain the momentum. With good income being generated, and with increasing workload, you finally decide to outsource your content writing to professionals for a fee. Of course, you still write but in order that you’re able to work on other aspects of your blog and its promotion, you feel hiring content writers for content creation makes more business sense.
Stage 9: Stage of Maturity and Establishment of Authority
This stage is marked by significant growth in traffic and most things go on autopilot. Since you have mostly freed yourself from the content writing process, you are able to put in more effort on the monetisation of your blog. This stage is also characterised by other hectic activities outside of your blog that includes signing advertisement or business deals, buying old websites, talk shows, organising seminars to enhance your brand value. You start creating your own products – videos, e-books, and training courses. This stage can be quite challenging because you will be dividing your time on a whole range of activities that require your personal involvement – financial management, recruiting workforce and staying ahead of your competitors. From being a solopreneur, you’re now the head of a qualified team. You assume the role of the head of your organisation and many of the responsibilities would be delegated to your team. You now have the added responsibility to establish an order and discipline within your team. By now, you have your mission and vision clearly spelled out.
Stage 10: Expansion or Diversification of Activities
By now, your company has been firmly entrenched in the minds of the people and within the industry. There is a rapid growth in revenue and the business is handled by your team. This is a crucial phase because if you do have proper business plans, things can stagnate. You can become too comfortable and complacency can set in. They say, in business, when you do not move forward, you are moving backward. This is when most businesses expand or move into other related (or unrelated) areas. However, in the name of expansion, it’s risky to diversify carelessly without a clear blueprint. You have to realistic about your resources, efforts and the expected profits. It should not affect the quality of work on your blog. Remember, it is your existing customers who are providing the bread and butter to your business. More than anything else, it is the maintenance of quality that should be on the top of your agenda.
Success is not a One-Time Event
Not every blog will pass through the same stages as described above. And depending on the niche and the amount of work being invested into the blog, the journey from the first start-up idea to achieving great success can take years to happen. I deliberately did not specify a time period for each stage of the journey because no two journeys will be alike. Success in an online business is not a one-off event. It is a continuous process and at no stage will a blogger say for finality that he has learned everything that he needed to know. It’s an ongoing learning process. And after you achieve whopping success comes the crucial stage of maintenance. If one gets too complacent, it will not take long for the blog to deteriorate. Remember, it is the quality on your blog that will determine your continued success. When you enter the final stage of blogging, the blog is self-sustaining and the amount of effort you put in it is significantly less than you had put in the beginning.
The golden rules remain though. Blog with passion and on topics that are close to your heart. Create content that helps people. Approach your blog as a business. There are no short-cuts to success. Success in blogging does not happen overnight. Be mentally prepared for all the frustration and bad moments on your journey. They are bound to happen. Be prepared for the long haul. To success!